How Steve Albini convinced Nirvana to record In Utero in MN

Categories: History
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While music fans mark the 20th anniversary of Nirvana's In Utero -- either by comparing it to Nevermind or Counting Crows' August and Everything After -- the historical documents of the time have emerged. One of particular interest to locals is the original 1992 pitch for working on the album that producer Steve "If a record takes more than a week to make, somebody's fucking up" Albini sent to the band.

In it, we get Albini's recommendation that they record at the rural enclave that is the ever-overhauled Pachyderm near Cannon Falls. A ton of artists of local and national concern have occupied the space, but Nirvana are the best-known clients to this day.

See Also: Nirvana's In Utero vs. Nevermind: Which is better?

"My first choice for an outside recording studio would be a place called Pachyderm in Cannon Falls, Minnesota," Albini writes. "It's a great facility with outstanding acoustics and a totally comfy architect's wet-dream mansion where the band lives during the recordings... There's also all the posh shit like a sauna and a swimming pool and fireplaces and trout stream and 50 acres and like that..."

This goes on for a while in entertaining fashion that alternates between his tech-savvy knowledge, and a lot that could be adapted for a stand-up routine.

He later writes: "Some day I'm going to talk the Jesus Lizard into going up there and we'll have a real time. Oh yeah, and it's the same Neve console the AC/DC album Back in Black was recorded and mixed on, so you know it's just got to have the rock."

For its local ties, and for the transparency about the business within, this is a fascinating read. ("If we assume three million sales, that works out to 400,000 dollars or so. There's no fucking way I would ever take that much money. I wouldn't be able to sleep.") Seems like this all went over rather well, and Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl eventually arrived -- only to eventually ditch the "posh shit" for a run to Quik Trip to buy Reddi-Wip and do whippets all night.

The letter in its entirety will be reprinted inside the super deluxe edition of the In Utero reissue, but we have scans of the pages, via Vanyaland, below.

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Read the rest of the letter on the next page.

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8 comments
Don Engebretson
Don Engebretson

Yup, that's Steve. One of the most interesting music guys I ever met. He recorded our record right after In Utero, but I had always thought he did it in his basement studio in Chicago where he recorded us. Now I know, he went up to Pachyderm, which was the hip studio at the time. We recorded 'Disbelief' with Steve in 17 hours—eight songs. There's a note on it I cracked a little and wanted to do a second take, and he said no. You listen to the Things record now and it jumps out of the speakers. Albini recorded and mixed it all on tape, same as In Utero.

Jeff Dubois
Jeff Dubois

I always liked how the CD sleeve for In Utero had the recommended bass and treble settings.

Jason Kokal
Jason Kokal

I was there recording a few months after they were there. We raided the office and found a letter from Geffen to those guys. Sure wish I would have nabbed it!

Max Bray
Max Bray

Albini is the fucking coolest.

jackspencer
jackspencer

Lots of great quotables, love the sign-off "If a record takes more than a week to make, somebody's fucking up."

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